The use and purpose of social media for brands has evolved dramatically over the years. In one aspect, its a great way for fans to engage and stay current with the brands they love. On the other hand, its a great way for customers to bash and publicly shame brands that have provided a poor experience.

Whether brands like it or not, having a presence on social media is necessary in today’s world, and if your brand is one that is generally not shown much love, (think pharmaceuticals, insurance, financial services) it can seem like a much better solution to hide in a hole and ignore the outlet completely. Big mistake. The industries that struggle with social media interaction the most are the ones with the biggest opportunities to differentiate themselves through this channel. Negative comments are inevitably going to happen, but here are four ways to handle those situations rather than make them worse.

1. Take it Out of the Spotlight

Obviously resolving an issue on a social forum is not the ideal location to discuss complex issues that can require confidential information. Acknowledging the issue on the forum and offering to resolve it on a private channel is a much better way to tackle these situations. The customer knows you’ve heard them and once they’ve reached out to your through your suggested channel, you can swiftly handle the issue appropriately.

2. Respond Quickly

Nine times out of ten, customers are turning to social media because they don’t feel they’re being heard anywhere else. By the time they’ve lashed out on social, the WORST thing you can do is ignore them. Speed is of the essence. It’s crucial to respond quickly, before other customers tack onto the conversation and it snowballs into a much larger ordeal. A good benchmark to aim for is a response time under twenty minutes (MAX).

3. See It From Their Side

Don’t make up excuses for why something happened. Too many companies go down this path. The excuses may be true, but the customer doesn’t care. It just looks like the brand is trying to shift the blame away from itself. In social media, this can be a red rag to a bull. It is far better to begin every interaction from the viewpoint of the customer –what happened to them, what it meant and, ultimately, what can be done to make it right.

4. Say Sorry

For some brands on social, “sorry” is indeed the hardest word. Maybe they don’t want to take the blame, or they don’t agree with the customer’s point of view. However, if you look at it from the customer’s point of view, it is hard to argue with a poor brand experience.

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